My daughter turned 24 this week. I’ve been trying to discern, through memories, exactly when children’s birthdays begin to make parents feel older.
Not when they are small, newborns, infants, babies, toddlers, children, middle schoolers, teenagers, oh, wait. That’s not small any more. It’s so easy to get caught up in the tom-tom litany of growth. Children are a natural source of milestones. Ammie, for example, is crawling.
Kids smile, laugh, roll over, creep, walk, say a few words, talk so much you want to hide under your bed, argue, wonder why the world is unjust, cook their own breakfast, walk out the door with a bag in one hand, car keys in the other.
Jingle jingle bye bye mom.
At first you ask yourself, “How did my baby – who stood intrepid and small in the backyard – get to be 12?” But when that baby turns 24, you ask yourself, “How did I, me, get to be old enough to have a child coming up on 25?” Because 25, it seems to me, is when people turn into real adults. The mothers of 25-year-olds must then be different.
I think of aging like a staircase, you bump down the steps, seated and ungainly. Every now and then you hit a landing, and forget you’re destined to end up at the bottom. You sit, waiting for tea to arrive. It does not, in my experience. That’s OK.
I do not particularly care for the three wrinkles that bisect my lips. I adore my red-headed girl with all my heart. There’s really nothing to do but shrug and proceed. I would prefer not to age, but I cannot sort out an alternative. We accept these tradeoffs, some of us shoving the paradox of vivid life and final end under the sofa cushions, others relying on frameworks of faith.
In the end, a sense of how unusual it is to be alive at all holds onto my skirts and won’t let go. Think of all the permutations. Click. We got life. Do you go about your days with this companion wonder? Do we all?
To my daughter, happy birthday again. I am very glad you had a good day, I hope your like your iPad2, and good luck with the dog-sitting. See you soon, Mom.